MARC Finds a (Holland &) Knight

Posted December 9, 2008 at 6:07pm

After more than 20 years in business, MARC Associates Inc. is closing up shop, and its 11 employees will merge into Holland & Knight on Jan. 1.

The lobby firm, founded in 1985 by Dan Maldonado, 66, and Randolph Fenninger, 51, focuses on health care and local government work.

“We had made a decision internally to find a merger to be more competitive,” Fenninger said. “What we’ve seen over the years is larger and larger firms competing for business that we normally compete for.”

MARC Associates did not approach Holland & Knight looking for a partner, but it instead pitched the law and lobbying firm its services in health care policy.

“[Holland & Knight] said, ‘What about a merger?’” Fenninger recalled.

That was back in March.

Rich Gold, 44, who heads Holland & Knight’s lobbying practice, said his firm was looking for a way to boost its practice, especially in the technical areas of Medicare and Medicaid policy. “This takes our health care practice to the next level,” Gold said.

Maldonado, whose daughter Eve O’Toole is also a member of the MARC firm, called the move a “powerful” alliance.

“When you think about the new calculus with the incoming administration and Congress, things are not going to be run the way they’ve been run in the past,” said Maldonado, a former top aide to then-Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Calif.), who was an Appropriations panel cardinal.

“A lot of things around earmarks just won’t cut it anymore,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to measure projects in terms of what jobs are created, where they’re created, what is their contribution for improving health care, the environment.”

Maldonado added that being part of a large law and lobbying firm will help make that case, with more professionals to tap into.

Last year, MARC Associates brought in about $3.5 million in revenue, and Fenninger said his shop was still a viable business. Its lobbying clients include the American Society of Hematology, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, the Los Angeles County Office of Education as well as the cities of San Francisco and Seattle.

Neither Gold nor the MARC Associates founders would explain the financials of the deal, but they said it was not a scenario of actually buying out the firm, as has been the case when large advertising agencies have acquired lobby shops.

Maldonado said his side wanted to find an operation that would allow his firm to blend into an existing firm.

“It was much more of a winding down of our operation,” Maldonado said. “There’s a set of agreements we have reached for the teams that we agreed to and came together around.”

Both sides said they had encountered little in the way of client conflicts. Gold said some of the Holland & Knight lawyers may have to get waiver agreements to work on certain issues that relate to the MARC clients, but he added, “there was nothing that was serious” that would result in losing clients from either firm.

Fenninger said that from his perspective, it was a good fit because MARC Associates has not been an eat-what-you-kill firm, where compensation is based entirely on bringing in business.

“As we got into the discussions, Holland & Knight offered an approach to business that was very similar,” he said.